Masts

 

         Fore and Main lower masts

Long before the Flying Cloud was built in 1851 the U.S. had run out of tree trunks large enough to be used for masts the size of the lower fore and main mast on the Flying Cloud so shipbuilders were using “made masts” constructed on smaller timbers held together with iron hoops.  None of the contemporary sources specifically say that the Flying Cloud had made masts but it seems very likely.  For example, the McKay ship Great Republic, launched in 1853, had made masts, as shown by the contemporary plans (see figure 1) in the McLean booklet about the ship.  In addition, the Duncan McLean descriptions of the McKay clippers ships Flying Fish, Bald Eagle, Westward Ho!, Sovereign of the Seas, Romance of the Seas, Lightning, Empress of the Seas, Donald McKay, Champion of the Seas, and Staffordshire, say that these ships had made fore and main masts. If McKay used made fore and main masts on all of these ships it would be very likely that he also used made fore and main masts on the Flying Cloud even if McLean’s description[1] does not mention the fact.

Crothers states that the iron hoops on made masts were 4 inch wide and 1/2 inches thick separated by about three feet.[2]

 

Figure 1: Portion of Plate No. 6 from the McLean booklet

 

 

Figure 2: Photograph from the 1880s of the Sea Witch looking aft showing made fore and main masts

 

         Some made masts had chapels.  Chapels were “the grooves in a built-up or “made” wooden mast, by which several pieces of timber are used to fashion it. … The chapels occurred where the various pieces of which the mast was made were joined together.[3] Since chapels on made masts were common in the mid 1850s, it is likely that the Flying Cloud had chapels on her fore and main masts.  An example of masts with chapels is seen in figure 2. Note the small filler blocks under the iron hoops.

 

Crothers[4] discusses how such masts were made, with a good drawing on page 65, which shows chapels and Campbell[5] has a discussion of made masts (which he calls “five-piece masts” in his text and “made masts” in his drawing) with a drawing on page 113, also showing chapels, although he does not call the groves “chapels”.

 

Mizzen lower mast

         The mizzen lower mast of the Flying Cloud was small enough in diameter to be made from a single timber, and likely did not have iron hoops holding it together (similar to the Sea Witch, as shown in figure 2), even though the Boucher model of the Flying Cloud in the Boston MFA shows the mizzen mast as a made mast with chapels and hoops.

 

         Other masts

         All the upper masts of the Flying Cloud were made from single timbers, and did not have iron bands holding them together.

 

         Rake of masts on the Flying Cloud

McLean reported that all of the Flying Cloud’s masts were raked at 1.25" per foot.[6]

 

         Size of the Flying Cloud’s masts

         McLean provided the following table of the dimensions of the masts on the Flying Cloud.[7]

 

 

Diameter

Length

Mast Head

Fore Lower

35"

82'

13'

Top

17"

46'

9'

Topgallant

11"

25'

NA

Royal

10"

17'

NA

Skysail

8.5"

13'

pole 5'

Main Lower

36"

88'

14'

Top

18"

51'

9.5'

Topgallant

12"

28'

NA

Royal

11"

19'

NA

Skysail

9.5"

14.5'

pole 5.5'

Mizen Lower

26"

78'

12'

Top

12.5"

40'

8'

Topgallant

9"

22'

NA

Royal

8"

14'

NA

Skysail

7"

10'

pole 4'

 

 

         Note that the length of the lower masts in the table above included the length below the deck as well as the length of the mast head.

         The Flying Cloud’s yards were cut down a few times over her lifetime and, as shown by John Scott’s 1871 painting, adopted double topsails at some point, likely when she was converted to be an immigrant transport for the route between England and Australia.

 

         Tapered masts

         Most sources state that all masts on large sailing vessels were tapered, including the lower masts, even if they were made masts. Donald McKay did use tapered mad masts on his ships as can be seen in the plan of the main mast Duncan McLean included in his booklet about the Great Republic.  See figure 3. So it is reasonable to assume that the Flying Cloud’s lower masts were tapered.

 

Figure 3: Portion of Plate No. 6 from the McLean booklet

 

         The taper of the mast section in figure 3 closely matches the taper described by Underhill[8] and by Steel[9] and shown in my drawing of the proportions of masts.

 

         Colors of masts

         The contemporary images of the Flying Cloud show that her lower masts and tops were painted white.

 



[1] Duncan McLean, The New Clipper Ship Flying Cloud of New York, Boston Daily Atlas, April 25, 1851

[2]William Crothers, The Masting of American Merchant Sail in the 1850s, page 58

[3] Peter Kemp, The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, page 152

[4] William Crothers, The Masting of American Merchant Sail in the 1850s starting on page 57

[5] William Crothers, China Tea Clippers, starting on page 112

[6] The New Clipper Ship Flying Cloud of New York

[7] The New Clipper Ship Flying Cloud of New York

[8] Harold Underhill, Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier (1946), page 5

[9] David Steel, Art of Making Masts, Yards, Gaffs, Booms, Blocks, and Oars (1797), page 114

 

2021-05-29